Saturday’s latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic for Sept. 24, 2022.
Canada to drop vaccine mandate at border Sept. 30
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signed off on Canada dropping the vaccine requirement for people entering the country at the end of September, an official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Canada, like the United States, requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated when entering the country. No change in the mandate is expected in the U.S. in the near term.
Unvaccinated foreign travelers who are allowed to enter Canada are currently subject to mandatory arrival tests and a 14-day quarantine.
The official said that Trudeau has agreed to let a cabinet order enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements at the border expire Sept. 30. The official said earlier this week the prime minister need to give final sign off. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Trudeau’s Liberal government is still deciding whether to maintain the requirement for passengers to wear face masks on trains and airplanes.
Unvaccinated professional athletes like major league baseball players would be allowed to play in Toronto in the playoffs should the Blue Jays make the postseason. They currently are not allowed to cross the border into Canada.
4.4M Americans roll up sleeves for omicron-targeted boosters
U.S. health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the updated COVID-19 booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the count Thursday as public health experts bemoaned President Joe Biden’s recent remark that “the pandemic is over.”
The White House said more than 5 million people received the new boosters by its own estimate that accounts for reporting lags in states.
Health experts said it is too early to predict whether demand would match up with the 171 million doses of the new boosters the U.S. ordered for the fall.
“No one would go looking at our flu shot uptake at this point and be like, ‘Oh, what a disaster,’” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If we start to see a large uptick in cases, I think we’re going to see a lot of people getting the (new COVID) vaccine.”
A temporary shortage of Moderna vaccine caused some pharmacies to cancel appointments while encouraging people to reschedule for a Pfizer vaccine. The issue was expected to resolve as government regulators wrapped up an inspection and cleared batches of vaccine doses for distribution.
Hong Kong to end mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers
Hong Kong’s leader has announced the city would no longer require incoming travelers to quarantine in designated hotels. The city is seeking to remain competitive and open up globally after nearly two years.
The city’s chief executive John Lee at a news conference Friday said incoming travelers will also no longer need a negative PCR test within 48 hours before boarding a plane to Hong Kong. Instead, they will need to present a negative result from a rapid antigen test conducted within 24 hours before their flight.
The measures will go into effect Monday. Lee said there must be a balance between COVID-19 risks and economic growth.
CDC map shows 1 Indiana county at ‘high risk’ of spreading COVID-19, 21 at ‘medium risk’
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, just one Indiana county was classified in the high-risk category for spreading COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The only Indiana county listed on the most current CDC data map as having a “high” community risk of spreading COVID-19 is Perry in southern Indiana.
The map also shows 21 Indiana counties listed as “medium” risks, including Delaware, Hancock and Henry in central Indiana.
The majority of central Indiana counties are listed as “low” risks for spreading COVID-19 as of Saturday morning.
Over the past seven days, Indiana has recorded 5,299 new cases and 60 deaths. The 7-day moving average of new hospital admissions for COVID-19 is 73.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 96.05 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 6:20 a.m. ET Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 1.05 million deaths recorded in the U.S.
Worldwide, there have been more than 614.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 6.53 million deaths and more than 12.25 billion vaccine doses administered.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.
IDOH: More locations added for new COVID-19 booster shots
Appointments are not yet available online, but can be made by contacting a pharmacy or health care provider, or by calling 211 for assistance.
Additional locations will be added as vaccine shipments continue arriving across Indiana, the state health department said.
“The omicron variant has been the main cause of COVID-19 infections for months, so having a vaccine that specifically targets this variant as well as the delta variant will help keep Hoosiers healthier as we enter the fall and winter, when respiratory illnesses often increase,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG said in a statement. “I encourage individuals who are eligible to consider getting the new COVID-19 booster when they schedule their annual flu shot and make protecting themselves against COVID-19 part of their annual health care strategy.”
The new Pfizer booster is available for people 12 and older, while the Moderna booster has been authorized for those 18 and older. Individuals are eligible to receive an updated booster dose as long as it has been at least two months since they received their last booster dose or complete their primary vaccine series.
More information can be found on the health department’s website.
Updated COVID-19 boosters now offered at Meijer, Walgreens and CVS
All Meijer pharmacies in the Midwest are now offering the updated COVID-19 boosters, which help protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
The new boosters target today’s most common omicron strains.
Meijer officials encourage people to stay on top of both COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines ahead of the holiday season.
Health officials say both the COVID-19 booster and flu shot can be received during the same appointment.
To schedule a vaccine appointment with Meijer, text “COVID” or “flu” to 75049, visit their website or call your local pharmacy.
Officials with CVS said locations across the area are now offering the new booster shots, with more doses coming in on a rolling basis over the coming days and weeks. Appointments are recommended and can be made online.
Similarly, Walgreens is also offering the new boosters with shipments arriving daily. Their online portal shows appointments available across central Indiana.
The CDC recommends Hoosiers sign up for an appointment if it has been more than two months after their latest vaccine dose.
What to know about BA.5, BA.4 variant symptoms
As Americans ramp up their summer travels without their masks, two COVID-19 subvariants are causing a surge in cases.
BA.5, which accounts for 65% of cases, and BA.4, which is 16% of cases, are omicron’s smarter cousins. The two subvariants are evading antibodies and even vaccine protections, as they are one of the most contagious versions of the virus yet.
“It knows how to trick our immune system,” said TEGNA’s medical expert Dr. Payal Kohli.
Since the subvariants derived from the original omicron variant, symptoms fall under the same umbrella. However, symptoms still vary depending on vaccination status, age, prior infection, medication and other factors, said Kohli.
Data collected from the Zoe app in the UK show most symptoms mimic the common cold, with sore throats and runny noses. Kohli said a significant change in symptoms for the subvariants are heightened amounts of sneezing, something not seen in earlier forms of the COVID-19 variant.
The subvariants responsible for the latest surge pose a different threat as it also has higher rates of reinfection.